In a situation calling for a steady presence and a firm knowledge of the current application of offside, FIFA Assistant Referee George Gansner signaled for an offside violation in the waning moments of the Eastern Conference Final between the Chicago Fire and the New England Revolution. The incident highlights the importance of understanding the finer points of Law 11 (Offside). A clip of the incident is attached.
Chicago was down one goal and the second half had continued into "stoppage" time. With Chicago aggressively attacking the Revolution goal, Chicago player #29 (Thiago) lifted the ball forward in a long pass toward the top of the opponent's penalty area. At the moment of the pass, Chicago player #25, Segares, was in an offside position about one yard past the second to last Revolution player #6, Heaps. Segares cut inside and around Heaps to get to the ball, at the same time that the Revolution goalkeeper (#1, Reis) came forward to defend.
The assistant referee was directly in line with the second to last defender when this sequence of play began and was thus able correctly to evaluate all player positions, both initially and through all subsequent movements on the field by Segares and Heaps. Even when their movements resulted in Segares no longer being past the second to last defender, Segares remained in an offside position according to Law 11 because it is well established that player movements by themselves cannot convert an offside position to onside. Normally, only a new play of the ball can cause a re-evaluation of an offside position.
Segares became involved in active play in three distinctly different ways. First, there was no onside teammate able to reach the ball before him (interfering with play). Second, his movement caused two defenders (Heaps and Reis) to challenge for the ball (interfering with an opponent). Third, he physically made contact with the ball, having come from an offside position (interfering with play). Any one of these events is sufficient to constitute an offside violation. The occurrence of all three only reaffirms the offense.
The evaluation of this sequence of play, occurring after more than 90 minutes of a closely contested match, involved complex player movements over a large portion of the field. This was a tough, courageous decision made under difficult circumstances and the officiating team is commended for its performance.
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